When the Courtaulds came to Eltham they brought their pet Ring-tailed Lemur with them. Called Mah-Jong, he was most often just referred to as ‘Jongy’. It was a time of unusual pets. Unity Mitford had a snake called Enid and was reputed to have brought her pet rat to a debutant ball.

Jongy had accompanied them on a trip on the couple’s boat from Cape Town to Cairo. It was reported that Jongy had his own special deckchair. It is also reported that he bit a dinner guest so bad that it took three months for the man to recover.


At Eltham Palace, Jongy had his own quarters built on the first floor. It was centrally heated and decorated with scenes from the rainforest. However, he often had the run of the house and there are reports of guests at dinner being nipped on their ankles during the meal.


Mah-jong died in 1938 at Eltham. Images of him can be found within the decoration within the house.

Weybourne Church

Posted: May 24, 2018 in History, Norfolk, UK, Uncategorized

Weybourne is a small village on the North Norfolk Coast. The church as we see it today is all that remains of the 13th-century Augustinian priory, which was built on the site of an earlier parish church of Saxon or Norman origin. They greatly expanded the church and built a range of buildings to the north of the existing church and it must have been a fairly grand building judging by the remains that can be seen today. It was short-lived, however, and by the middle of the 15th century the occupancy had dwindled to 4 cannons and by 1514 this had become 2, the prior and one other canon. It was dissolved in 1536.

Part of this original church can be found incorporated into the priory building.


The interior has a 15th-century hammerbeam roof although much of the internal decor dates from Victorian times


The church of All Saints, Weybourne is now a village parish church again.

Views of Cromer

Posted: May 23, 2018 in History, Norfolk, UK

Cromer is a lovely seaside town on the north coast of Norfolk. One of the delightful things about the town is the way in which they have resisted the temptation to knock down and rebuild buildings once they have served their primary function. Examples of this are the Old Town Hall, now retail premises and the old hospital now a social club.

The Old Town Hall (left) and the Old Hospital (bottom right) together with the original , but amended, hospital sign on the front balcony (top right)

Cromer has some lovely churches as well


This site on the sea-front overlooking the pier is believed to have been the location of an unnamed hotel in early town records but in 1820 this was demolished and a summer retreat house was built for Lord Suffield. Suffield was MP for Great Yarmouth 1806-12 and for Shaftesbury in 1820 before taking his seat in the House of Lords following his brother’s death a year later. He was a strong advocate of the abolition of the slave trade.

However, his Cromer residence was only to last 10 years and in 1830 the house was put up for sale. The site was purchased by Pierre le Francoise. His parents, French aristocrats, had come to England to escape the French revolution. The hotel is listed in 1836 as ‘a boarding house’ but by 1845 had acquired the name ‘ Hotel de Paris’. Le Francois died in 1841, but the hotel continued to be run by his widow until she sold it to a local businessman, Henry Jarvis in 1845. He extended the original building by adding more accommodation.

In 1877 the railway came to Cromer and Henry’s son Alex decided to build a new hotel which would incorporate the original building but would also encompass neighbouring buildings including another hotel. The hotel remained in the Jarvis family until 1961.


And of course, Cromer has a lighthouse


A rough sea

Posted: May 22, 2018 in Landscape, Natural History, Norfolk, UK


During the recent trip to Norfolk, Keitha and I experienced a day with 60 mph winds and driving rain. We avoided the coast that day, but the following morning we went down to the front and although the winds had dropped the sea was still rough.



It makes you wonder what it was like there on the day of the gale?

Charles VI at the signing of the Treaty of Troyes 1420 ( [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

The 21st May marks a day that could have seen the history of Europe turn out in a very different way. In 1420, the war between England and France had waged for 7 years and King Henry V of England was very much in the ascendancy. Harfleur had fallen to the English in 1415, Normandy in 1417 and Rouen surrendered 2 years later. The French position seemed hopeless and Charles VI seemingly had no choice but to seek peace with the English. The treaty of Troyes was signed on this day 498 years ago. It’s terms saw Henry married to Charles’ eldest daughter, Catherine of Valois; the Dauphin, Charles’ son and heir, disherited and declared illegitimate and Henry named as the heir to the French throne. It seemed as though it was destined for France and England to become one nation. In 1421, the birth of Henry’s son and heir seemed to strengthen the position.

The marriage of Henry V and Catherine of Valois. Troyes 1420 (By William Hamilton – This file was donated to Wikimedia Commons by as part of a project by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.)

In August 1422, Henry suddenly died leaving a 1-year-old as heir to the thrones of France and England and then a couple of months later Charles VI also died. Into this vacuum stepped the deposed Dauphin, later Charles VII, who laid claim to his father’s crown. It would not be easy but eventually, in 1429 Charles was crowned King of France and any thoughts of union between the countries were abandoned.

Intriguing to think how the history of Europe could have been different if the terms of the treaty had come to pass and England and France had been united under one crown.


It is always great to find out about new places where you haven’t been before. We have spent a number of holidays in SW Wales though not for some years now, but I have never been to Caldy Island. Finding such places is a lovely surprise as we had on the way back from Weymouth earlier this year when quite by chance we found Blashford Lakes in Hampshire which turned out to be an absolutely fantastic wildlife spot.

If you like wildlife in and around Europe then I recommend that you follow  https://naturewatchingineurope.wordpress.com/


Caldey Island isn’t the first place you’d think about when looking for nature-watching sites in Pembrokeshire, but it does have some advantages over the other islands. First, it is easy to get to, with boats every half hour or so from Tenby Harbour, starting around 10am, every day except Sunday. Second, if you are not […]

via Caldey Island — Nature-Watching in Europe

When Keith and I were in Norfolk recently we didn’t ride on the North Norfolk Railway but we did pop into Sheringham Station on a couple of occasions to use the excellent tea room.

BR Standard 76084 was present on both our visits.

76084 left the Horwich Works in March 1957. It was one of the last batch of locomotives to be built at Horwich. Records show that 76084 initially went to Lower Darwen shed near Blackburn along with 76080/1/2 and 3.

All 5 locomotives were transferred to Sutton Oak, St.Helens in preparation for the closure of the Lower Darwen shed in March 1965 and scrapping of the class began the following year. 76084 was the last of her class to be withdrawn from BR stock in December 1967. 76084 arrived at Barry in a convoy with 76077, 76079 and 76080. She was to stand in the sidings at Barry until 1982 when she was purchased and the new owner had the engine and tender transferred to his back garden where he began work on it. After his death in 1990, the engine was sold again and taken to Morpeth. The new owners continued with the restoration work and 76084 was finally returned to steam in May 2013. By now the Engine had been transferred to the North Norfolk Railway.


This reminds me of a very good holiday we had in Menorca some years ago. I am sure it is more developed now but it is good to know that the wildlife is still worth visiting.

Martin Tayler's bird blog & nature photos

Menorca has the only resident population of Egyptian vultures in Europe (around 100 pairs) and so it would have been disappointing not to see them. We walked along the gorge from Santa Galdana on the south coast with wild flowers adorning the route to a backdrop of dramatic limestone cliffs and birdsong all around. We had sightings of booted eagle and black kites on our way and were well rewarded with good views of Egyptian vultures at the end of the gorge.

DSC05305DSC05287DSC05293DSC05321DSC05359Egyptian vultures

DSC05049Booted eagle

DSC05628Black kite

On the return journey we also saw a kestrel, more views of booted eagles and kites and even a pair of little egrets. The most stunning aspect of this walk was the birdsong; we had no difficulty in recognising Cetti’s warbler but were grateful to some birders who pointed out nightingales and Siberian chiffchaff. The nightingales were everywhere and filled the valley…

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Gallery  —  Posted: May 16, 2018 in Birds, Butterflies and Moths, Dragonflies, Natural History

The First McDonalds

Posted: May 15, 2018 in California, History, USA

Today marks the 78th anniversary of the opening of the first McDonalds store in San Bernadino, California. It was the first of 36,615 outlets (and still rising) around the world. Richard and Maurice McDonald has previously run a hot dog stand and decided to open a store specialising in BBQ, McDonald’s Bar-B-Q. Within 10 years they had revamped the menu and the BBQ was gone and the focus was on hamburgers. They dropped the reference to bar-b-q in the name and it became known as McDonald’s.

The first McDonald’s restaurant in San Bernadino


Norwich Castle

Posted: May 14, 2018 in Norfolk, UK


The first castle in Norwich was built shortly after the Norman conquest of 1066. Although the date cannot exactly be defined, is most likely that it was built in conjunction with William the Conqueror’s East Anglia campaign of 1067. The first record we have of the castle comes from 1075 when the Earl of Norfolk rebelled against the king. The castle was besieged and the rebel garrison surrendered.


The stone keep of the castle, as we see it today, replaced the earlier keep sometime around 1100. It was again held by rebels from 1173 to 74 but was again returned to Royal control following the end of that rebellion.


Norwich castle 1851. British Library – Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32803754

Strategically, the castle then seems to have passed out of history. Records show that from 1220 it was used as a prison and over the following centuries buildings were added around the keep to expand its accommodation and a number of alterations on the buildings were carried out in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Following the opening of a new prison in 1887, on the site of the disused Britannia barracks, the castle ceased to be used for housing criminals. The buildings were bought by the city of Norwich and following a rebuilding programme were opened as a museum in 1895.


The museum today contains a varied collection of art, nature and history with a focus on local interests.

The castle also contains the regimental museum of the Royal Norfolk Regiment